Romero was born in New York City of half Cuban descent. He attended Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University and after quitting school, he began shooting short films and commercials. One of his early commercial films, a segment for Mr. Roger's Neighborhood in which Mr. Rogers underwent a tonsillectomy, inspired Romero to go into the horror film business. He and some friends formed Image Ten Productions in the late 1960s and they chipped in roughly $10,000 apiece to produce what became one of the most celebrated horror films of all time: "Night of the Living Dead" (1968). The movie, directed by Romero and co-written with John A. Russo, became a cult classic in the 1970s. Romero updated his original screenplay and executive produced the remake of "Night of the Living Dead" directed by Tom Savini for Columbia / Tristar in 1990.
Romero's films during the nine years after 1968's "Night of the Living Dead" were less popular: "There's Always Vanilla" (1971), "Jack's Wife / Season of the Witch" (1972) and "The Crazies" (1973). Though not as acclaimed as "Night of the Living Dead" or some of his later work, these films have his signature social commentary while dealing with primarily horror-related issues at the microscopic level. "The Crazies," dealing with a bio spill that induces madness, and the critically acclaimed art house success "Martin" (1977), a film that strikingly deconstructs the vampire myth, were the two standout efforts during this period. Like almost all of his films, they were shot in or around Romero's favorite city of Pittsburgh .
In 1978, Romero returned to the zombie genre with "Dawn of the Dead." Shot on a budget of just $500,000 (the producers gave a false figure of $1.5 million to help their negotiating position with distributors), the film earned over $55 million worldwide and was named one of the top cult films by Entertainment Weekly in 2003. Romero made a third entry in his 'Dead Series' with "Day of the Dead" (1985), which was less popular at the box office.
During this period, Romero also made "Knightriders" (1981), another festival favorite about a group of modern-day jousters who reenact tournaments on motorcycles, and the successful "Creepshow" (1982), written by Stephen King, an anthology of tongue-in-cheek tales modeled after 1950s horror comics.
Throughout the latter half of the 1980s and 90s, Romero made various films, including "Monkey Shines" (1988) about a killer monkey, "Two Evil Eyes" (1990), an Edgar Allan Poe adaptation in collaboration with Dario Argento, the Stephen King adaptation "The Dark Half" (1992) and "Bruiser" (2000), about a man whose face becomes a blank mask.
Romero also had a cameo appearance in Jonathan Demme's Academy Award-winning, "The Silence of the Lambs," in 1991, as one of Hannibal Lecter's jailers.
In 1998, Romero returned to the horror scene, this time in the form of a commercial. He directed a live action commercial (promoting the video game Resident Evil 2) which was shot in Tokyo , Japan . The 30 second advertisement was live action and featured the game's two main characters, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, fighting a horde of zombies while in Raccoon City 's Police Station. The project was a natural for Romero, as the Resident Evil series has been heavily influenced by Romero's 'Dead' series. The commercial was rather popular and was released in the weeks before the games actual release, although a contract dispute prevented the commercial from being shown outside Japan . Capcom was so impressed with Romero's work it strongly indicated that Romero would direct the first Resident Evil film. He initially declined, however, stating in an interview, "I don't wanna make another film with zombies in it, and I couldn't make a movie based on something that ain't mine,” although in later years he reconsidered and wrote a script for the first movie. While many were impressed with the script (which garnered positive reviews), it was eventually rejected in favor of Paul W.S. Anderson's treatment.
Universal Studios produced and released a remake of "Dawn of the Dead" in 2004, in which Romero was not involved (though he expressed admiration for the Zack Snyder film in a graphic novel adaptation of the remake). Later that year, Romero kicked off the DC Comics title, "Toe Tags," with a six-issue miniseries entitled, "The Death of Death." Based on an unused script that Romero had previously written as a sequel to his 'Dead Trilogy,' the comic miniseries concerns Damien, an intelligent zombie who remembers his former life while struggling to find his identity as he battles armies of both the living and the dead. Typical of a Romero zombie tale, the miniseries includes ample supply of both gore and social commentary (dealing particularly here with corporate greed and terrorism - ideas he would also explore in his next film in the series, "Land of the Dead"). Romero has stated that the miniseries is set in the same kind of world as his 'Dead' films, but featured other locales besides Pittsburgh , where the majority of his films take place.
Romero, who still lives in Pittsburgh, completed a fourth 'Dead' movie, "Land of the Dead" (formerly known as Dead Reckoning), in Toronto, Ontario, with a $16 million production budget (the highest in Romero's career). Actors Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento and John Leguizamo star in the film. It was released on June 24, 2005 to generally positive reviews.
Some critics have seen social commentary in much of Romero's work. They view "Night of the Living Dead" as a film made as a reaction to the turbulent 1960s, "Dawn of the Dead" as a satire on consumerism, "Day of the Dead" as a study of the conflict between science and the military, and "Land of the Dead" as an examination of class conflict.
Romero is married to Christine Forrest, whom he met on the set of "Season of the Witch." They have two children together.
As of June 2006, Horror icon George Romero is scheduled to begin his next project, called Zombisodes. It is unclear at this time if the production is a feature film, TV series or an Internet web cast. Shooting is scheduled to begin in Toronto sometime in July.
In August 2006, The Hollywood Reporter made two announcements about Romero, the first being that he will write and direct a film based on a short story by Koji Suzuki, author of "Ring" and "Dark Water," and the second announcement pertaining to his signing on to write and direct George A. Romero's "Diary of the Dead," which will follow a group of college students making a horror movie in the woods, who stumble on a real zombie uprising. When the onslaught begins, they seize the moment as any good film students would, capturing the undead in a 'cinema verite' style that causes more than the usual production headaches. The film will be independently financed, making it the first indie zombie film Romero has done in years.
In Early October 2006, Romero collapsed and was rushed to an area hospital. Per doctor's orders, he cancelled all his appearances for the next two months. "Diary of the Dead" also had its start date pushed back from October 11, to sometime in December.